Magic Towel Pull-Ups

For a few months in the beginning of 2012, the only exercise I got was doing 10-20 sets of pull-ups a day. I was hacking nonstop on the Skritter iOS app, and I decided to save gym time and just see how many I could do. I had tried sporadically forever (included weighted pull-ups and other silly things) to increase my max pull-ups, but from my untrained max of 13, I could never get past 15. Then Yoni suggested greasing the groove: do lots of easy sets throughout the day.

I tried doing 20 sets of 10 for 8 days, then rested 5 days and tested my max. Twenty! Well, all that other training must have sucked if it only takes a week to up one's max that much. I figured I was getting weaker at all my other lifts, but I didn't care, because over the next couple months at ten sets a day (eventually growing to sets of 16), I raised my max to 26.

Then I didn't do any exercise for six weeks, since I got busy with moving to the Human Hacker House. I tested my max pull-ups, and they had gone back down to around 20. Okay, lost some short-term gains there, I thought; let's see what else I lost, since I haven't done any other exercises for six months.

But my one-mile run was somehow 14 seconds faster than my previous plateau, and my bench press was 15 lbs higher than ever before, and my other lifts were about as good as they had been. Huh?

Why did my fitness and strength go up when all I was doing was pull-ups? I still don't know. (Do you?) But I just realized that even though I can't install a pull-up bar in this apartment, I can hang towels from door railing and do towel pull-ups!

The grip is the hard part for now--I can only hold on long enough to do eight right now--but I think the good times of doing pull-ups all day are back. In theory, this should be a good counterbalance to typing too much, right?

Think I can get to twenty? Are pull-ups actually magic? Are my fingers going to fall off?

Nick

Hacking on CodeCombat, a multiplayer programming game for learning to code. Mastermind behind Skritter, the most powerful Chinese character learning app.

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